Friday, May 16, 2008

The path becomes clearer

I just got out of my annual review with my dissertation committee, and I believe that the previous meetings with them and our "wranglings" with the subject of my study and the possible research design has paid off. Everyone clearly understands what the subject of my study is and we have general agreement on what exactly about the subject ("rhetorical reflection") I will study. I think this actual focus of my study may be fluid, but I think with time will gain more focus.

What has made the BIGGEST difference is that we all decided to make this an archival study of between the draft reflections within TOPIC. There are some disadvantages in this study since I can't actually interview my subjects, but it sounds like there are other methods of member checking and triangulation that I could use and develop. The increadible advantages of using the archive is that it is stable, no IRB would be needed (we'll have to check that), and I have access to a vast pool of data. I can do random samples, as well as perhaps some larger "data-mining." It also has the possibility for a kind of longitudinal look at a student's reflections and writing growth over an entire year.

I will talk more later about how to dig into this study, but for now I feel enormous relief to have this much defined (for now).

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Wrangling with Research

Back in Lubbock--2008 TTU May Workshop

I just finished a two and a half hour session with Rich over my dissertation question and possible research study design. I feel incredibly wrung out and my legs are shaky. Funny how that is. I want to do a bit of thinking in words about what we came up with. My day will be filled with meeting with professors about this project, so this represents some of my initial thoughts. In many ways, my focus has not changed—it is on what is going on for freshman writers as they reflect between drafts. Does it impact their negotiation of thinking and task within the activity of writing, and if so how? Key terms to define:
Reflection-rhetorical reflection
activity of writing

Here is the basic outline of the study design:
Use TTU students (1302 student since I am targeting next Spring)
Create a set of reflective prompts to insert into a selected cohort of TTU students
Sample size—100?
Create a content analysis rubric for analyzing these reflective pieces
Analyze the full sample
Case study of five students in sample with more detailed analysis and interviews
Interview teachers in the study for further triangulation

The study depends to a large degree on Susan’s cooperation and support. It means I would need to set up my pilot for fall on 1301 students. I would need to develop my content analysis rubric and test it. I would need to get IRB approval for Fall and then again for Spring.

The good thing about this is that if I have this design defined and approved, then I can move forward. I am not able at this moment to critically reflect on this design so far, but perhaps more conversation and the time between now and Friday will help me piece together what I think of it.

Key things to think about as I reflect upon this question and design—
WGRA? –what is the so what behind all of this
What about my place in all of this. Can I look at my me wrangling with this study and critically reflect upon what I am doing? Will I see something to negate or to confirm?

This will have to come later. Right now I have a chorus of voices from other studies that echo my question, and I need to pull together these various voices into the same song and find the melody or harmony amongst these scattered looks at basically the same thing. But there is not an exact correspondence between these scattered voices and my own emphasis, so I will have to interpolate amongst them. That will be the challenge.

Other things from the morning session:
I need to explore whether to use grounded theory in the development of my content analysis instrument. I need to answer more exactly what I think is going on in reflection. I need to work on my research question until it is more refined. I also need to be prepared to define my terms. I think I have the categories of my reading list: 1. Reflection/rhetoric, 2. Invention/rhetoric, 3. Composition/Rhetoric, 4. Research. What else? I will probably need to explore more literature on learning theory and its relation to reflection.

My afternoon consisted of meetings with Susan and Becky. It looks like Susan would be cooperative and helpful if I were to do the study on TTU students in the FYWP. The one modification is that the writer's reviews for the study group would probably be done in-class. That's OK and would work.

My session with Becky was very extensive and has me rethinking a lot. I need to think a whole lot on the "so what" factor. She suggested an alternative study design that sounds intriguing:

Use samples of between the draft reflections from a larger sample of writing classes: 0301, 1301, 1302, 2 Sophmore classes (maybe not in English). Students would come from SAC, and I would have to recruit teachers to join me in the study. It would be a more complicated and elaborate study in terms of gathering data, but I believe I might be able to swing it. Another bonus would be that it examined reflection in a writing context beyond just freshman writing. We would be able to examine the uses of reflection at different levels and different disciplines.

I'm pretty beat and need to think more. As Becky said, I am in the reflection womb or bubble. I need to step out of it for a little bit and gain some perspective. This may prove hard to do... .